IKYU Gourmet Traveller Menu – Featuring Best of 15 Japanese Prefectures in One Meal
Japan’s cuisine is deeply linked to Nature – to the land, sea and seasons. Four distinct seasons and a diverse landscape foster an amazing variety and abundance of food.
IKYU Japanese Restaurant is having a Gourmet Traveller Menu from 13 to 30 November 2013, featuring best of 15 Japanese prefectures in one meal. Located in hip, fashionable Tiong Bahru and opened in August last year, IKYU – Japanese for “take a break” – has an edgy, coolly-lit interior and offers “contemporary Japanese cuisine with a touch of discovery.”
For this unique promotion, Chef Seki has selected ingredients from 15 prefectures across the entire geographical extent of Japan, from the North Island Prefecture of Hokkaido, to the South Island Prefecture of Kagoshima, to the outermost South- West Prefecture of Okinawa. Each ingredient represents the finest of its kind, a product of the best – the most famous – provenance.
Food is closely tied to season as well. Winter – from November to February — is when many ingredients take on an added richness, depth and intensity. The Japanese refer to food in season as shun — when it is at its best; when there is no better time to eat it. Chef Seki picks products that are not only the best in each prefecture — but the best in Japan.
The menu of 8 courses in omakase presentation engages all five senses in culinary and aesthetic enjoyment. Seafood plays a starring role. Among the three chinmi, or appetizers, is ankimo, the liver of deep-sea monkfish. Ankimo is foie gras-like: rich and buttery in flavor and texture. And it is famously at its biggest and best in winter in the waters off Ibaraki Prefecture.
Another chinmi is mentaiko or marinated cod roe. Do you know, mentaiko originated from Korea! It became popular in Japan after World War Two and mentaiko is first introduced in Fukuoka, where it remains, until today, unsurpassed in quality. It is mixed with Japanese mayo, gives a good crunch and is slightly spicy.
As for the white colour appetizer that looks like octopus, well… I am contemplating if I should tell you. I remembered during one of the workshops I conducted, someone from the audience asked if there are things I don’t eat. My reply was, as long as you are a food writer, you have to eat everything. And that includes…. Hokkaido Shirako, which is cod fish sperm. I think if I wasn’t told that it is cod fish sperm, I would innocently thought it was another unique kind of sashimi. I stared at my small plate of Shirako for a while, took a deep breath, carefully picked it up using my chopsticks and sending it into my mouth. I chewed a few times and swallowed. No, it doesn’t take anything similar to cod fish. It is soft and mushy, quite tasteless on its own, the ponzu dip makes it more tasty.
The following sashimi course of Kagoshima blue fin tuna and buri (five-ray yellow tail) from Chiba Prefecture, pairing it with Koshu White Wine. It is accompanied by freshly grated wasabi from Shizuoka — where the root was first used and enjoyed as a condiment — and umi budo, a seaweed native to the warm waters of sub-tropical Okinawa.
Umi budo is known as sea grape or green caviar. Its strings of tiny green pearls pop in the mouth like caviar, making it beautifully redolent of the sea. It is also high in minerals and low in calories. I didn’t finish it initially but Chef Alvin insists me to eat it as it is good for the skin! Haha!
In the Gourmet Traveller menu, they will also be serving steamed echizen snow crab from Fukui Prefecture. Unfortunately, on the day we went, it was not available so we had king crab instead. Pairing with Junmai, the crab meat is plump and sweet. I am sure it will taste much better with snow crabs.
The yakimono (robata grill) course offers the diner a choice of two meats of connoisseur’s renown – Miyazaki Champion Beef and Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork. Either of the dishes can be paired with Dai Ginjo, which is a very fragrant sake.
This is the highlight of my dinner. Miyazaki Champion Beef is an exclusive fixture on IKYU’s menu. It is considered the finest beef in Japan, having won multiple national competitions including the National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu (Zenkoku Wagyu Noryoku Kyoshinkai) known as the “Wagyu Olympics”, for which it was unprecedented twice-consecutive winner. Using A5 meat, it has a lovely marbling that delivers a distinctive rich and tender flavor. The dressing for the beef is made from the famous yuzu, or Japanese citron, that grows in Kouchi Prefecture. Kouchi yuzu is much prized for its zesty yet delicate aroma and flavor.
The other grilled option, Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork, is a superior 400-yearold pig breed that is the pride of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is partnered with seasonal vegetables such as carrot and radish, for which Kyoto is famed.
As for the agemono (deep-fried) course, this time off snowy and northerly Hokkaido — Panko oysters at their fat, creamy, seasonal best. Pairing with it is chef’s homemade tartar sauce which is made with boiled eggs, onions, mayo, mustard and some yuzu sauce. Chef has kindly given me the recipe for the tartar sauce, can’t wait to make it and share with you guys!
Finally, we have reached the main course. Seriously, I am already quite full by now! So we had Kaisen Chirashi Don with Toyama shiro ebi (white shrimps), Hokkaido uni (sea urchin), Ikura (salmon roe), and Kagoshima Maguro (tuna). Chef Seki only uses Niigata “Uonuma” Koshihikari, the highest grade of rice in Japan, commonly referred to as the ‘jewel’ rice. It is paired with the most expensive grade of sake, called junmai dai ginjo, and with miwa somen from Nara Prefecture.
Miwa somen are string-like wheat noodles that have been produced for more than 1200 years in the Miwa area (present-day Sakurai City). At no more than 1mm thick, miwa somen is credited as being ‘the thinnest noodles in the world’. The noodles is served hot, in soup.
Last but not least, a plate of rice ice cream and seasonal fruits to end the meal. The ice cream is made from the highest grade of rice in Japan: Koshihikari rice from Niigata Prefecture, known as ‘jewel’ rice. Freshly cooked, this rice is resilient and fragrant with a fragile sweetness; as ice cream, it is delicate, subtle and refreshing. he dessert was paired with a fruit sake that was delightfully sweet and ending the dinner with Yamazaki Whiskey. Perfect!
Food here is sincere and uncomplicated. Love Chef Seki’s and Chef Alex’s sense of humor which made our dinner extremely enjoyable. IKYU’s Gourmet Traveller Menu runs from 13 to 30 November 2013. It is priced at $188, with a beverage pairing option available for an additional $98++. Served during lunch and dinner, call ahead to book as limited portions are reserved per day.
Address: 5 Yong Siak Street
Tel: 6223 9003
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays 11.30 am – 2.30 pm; 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm. Closed on Mondays